by Christophe Cousinié
translation Louise Thunin
Based on what might be a simple, practical question concerning whether or not to put a sticker on one’s car, Christophe Cousinié reflects in this article on blasphemy and freedom of religion.
That’s a funny conviction, you’ll say ! Is it one, after all ? It ‘s more like a declaration.
It so happens that these words are posted on the back of our family car. It was a Christmas present to the pastor from an atheist, a fine bumper sticker with these words on it : “ I love beer and Jesus Christ !” with a big red heart in the place of the verb ”love.”
The question then was whether to use this gift so amusingly given so that it might carry out its vocation as a bumper sticker or not to use it and put it away in a closet.
The question seems unimportant, but when the vehicle in question is that of two ministers, and is regularly used for driving to funerals or some other prayer or study meeting, and moreover is parked in front of the church hall the rest of the time, it then takes on another meaning. For us there was no problem. There are no lies and the humor around the person of Jesus doesn’t bother us at all. But what about other people ? What will they say ? And in the end, it would appear that in our beautiful secular country of France, the question of blasphemy has not been entirely resolved.
Blasphemy and Incarnation
It seems that putting the name of Jesus Christ and the word beer together disturbs some people. It’s as if one could have influence over the other. Either we are giving beer divine status and looking as if we are promoting the consumption of alcohol, or we are removing the sacredness from the Messiah and appear to be blasphemous people who respect nothing and no one. To make one divine and the other non-sacred boils down to putting them on the same level and in the same reality. But then, isn’t that an image of the incarnation so often upheld by these same accusers ?
If God meets humanity in Jesus Crhist, then He enters the profane and thereby any notion of blasphemy is excluded, because things are no longer either sacred or profane. If He meets us in our humanity, it is also in the simplicity of this humanity, in what makes up its daily life, and so I can assert that I love Jesus just as I do the most simple things in my daily life. However it would seem that some people place Jesus so far from our humanity that it is unworthy to put his name next to the word ”beer“and no doubt even less worthy to give witenss to this on the bumper of our car. It makes for a disincarnate incarnation or rather for a divinization of Jesus that disincarnates him totally, making of him a glorious, all-powerful god so far away from our contemporaries that they don’t even want to meet him any more. Must humor be so far removed from the Christian message that the simple fact of attempting it appears to be the worst of spiritual crimes ? Would Jesus be the first among the austere ?
So what should we do with this sticker, “I love beer and Jesus Christ” ? We have two choices : to stick it on or not to stick it on. Not doing so would be to recognize that the conservatives who cry that it’s blasphemous have won. I would mean accepting that my consicence be taken into slavery, because it must conform to what others consider good. But it would also mean recognizing, with these Neo-Pharisees, that blasphemy exists, and that even if it is not a civil misdemeanor, it is a moral one. And once again we would be burying all those defenders of freedom of conscience who sometimes paid for their non-conformity with their lives.
In this struggle for freedom of consicence, there can be no small battles. To give in, even for something so minute as this little bit of plastic, which most people won’t notice, would mean giving up on the most precious thing we have. It would be shutting out laughter, which is what expresses this liberty with the most joy and spontaneity. For the lover of liberty that I am, the only possible answer to this question is to stick on this little ”I love beer and Jesus Christ. ” Too bad for the ones who will gripe in traffic jams or when they drive by on the parking lot. I prefer the smiles and laughter of the drivers who, when passing us, raise their thumbs behind their car windows.
Sticking on these few words becomes no longer an act of decoration but a declaration of conviction. For, from the time when one has decided to post ”I love beer and Jesus Christ“, it comes down to declaring one’s convictions. In fact, I can assure you, no one asks us where we found the sticker, but some question us on our Christian convictions.
The Freedom of Faith
Beyond what is written, I can say that it really reflects a theological conviction. I love beer and Jesus Christ. I doesn’t bother me in the least to say that, and I can even declare that it is true. But if I put myself in the place of a purist, an authentic beer connaisseur, it becomes less true. In fact, I don’t really like beer ! Whether it comes from an abbey, a small brewery, from the Cévennes or pure Alsatian tradition, with names that make one drem or laught I don’t like beer ! Not as real beer lovers do. If a purist explains to me what constituttes a good quality beer, how it must be brewed, in what sort of glass it must be served and at what temperature, that is not important. For, if I do not care for beer, in fact what I enjoy are the convivial moments that come with it.
I like these early evenings when I sit on my veranda, contemplating the ocean and the city calming down, all the while cooling off a bit from the tropical heat of the Island of Reunion by drinking a Dodo (a light beer produced and commercialized on the Island by the Bourbon breweries of the Heineken group). I like removing the capsule from simple beers and toasting friends who are there to share good times. And it can even be non-alcoholic, since what I like is not the beer in itself but everything that comes with it : emotion, joy, good times and sharing. If in the eye of the real aficionado, what I drink is not really beer, if in their eyes I do not appreciate it, I can nonetheless declare that I enjoy it.
It’s the same thing with Jesus Christ. People can tell me that to be a Christian (that is, to truly love Jesus Christ), you have to believe either this way or that way, you have to make a god of him and place him in a trinity or in some sacrament or other. They can explain that loving Jesus Christ is to love him the way doctrinal definitions and dogma present him to us, without which our belief would be a wrong or false faith. Then all I can say with conviction is that I love him as he presents himself to my consciousness and in my life. I love him in his words, which suddenly enlighten a moment of my life ; I love what the Gospel gives me to reflect on and philosophize about in life ; I love him in the distress I encounter and in the hope that comes and inhabits me.
Bringing together the love of beer and the love of Jesus Christ is also declaring that the Gospel comes to me in this life, as simple as it may be. And if you find that my convictions are not very lofty, it is probably because my Gospel is too incarnate. To the rest of you, I invite you to say along with me, ”I love beer and Jesus Christ.”
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